Type 2 diabetes can be inherited, but environmental factors also play a role. Not everyone with a family history of type 2 diabetes will get it, but you’re more likely to develop it if a parent or sibling has it.

Diabetes is a complex condition. Several factors must come together for you to develop type 2 diabetes.

For example, environmental factors such as obesity or a sedentary lifestyle play a role. Genetics can also influence whether you’ll get this disease.

If you’ve been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, there’s a good chance that you’re not the first person with diabetes in your family. You’re more likely to develop the condition if a parent or sibling has it.

Several gene mutations have been linked to the development of type 2 diabetes. These gene mutations can interact with the environment and each other to further increase your risk.

Type 2 diabetes is caused by both genetic and environmental factors.

Scientists have linked several gene mutations to a higher diabetes risk. Not everyone who carries a mutation will get diabetes. However, many people with diabetes do have one or more of these mutations.

It can be difficult to separate genetic risk from environmental risk. The latter is often influenced by your family members. For example, parents with nutrient-dense and balanced eating habits are likely to pass them on to the next generation.

On the other hand, genetics plays a big part in determining weight. Sometimes behaviors can’t take all the blame.

Studies of twins suggest that type 2 diabetes might be linked to genetics. These studies were complicated by the environmental influences that also affect type 2 diabetes risk.

To date, numerous mutations have been shown to affect type 2 diabetes risk. The contribution of each gene is generally small. However, each additional mutation you have seems to increase your risk.

In general, mutations in any gene involved in controlling glucose levels can increase your risk for type 2 diabetes. These include genes that control:

  • the production of glucose
  • the production and regulation of insulin
  • how glucose levels are sensed in the body

Genes associated with type 2 diabetes risk include:

  • TCF7L2, which affects insulin secretion and glucose production
  • ABCC8, which helps regulate insulin
  • CAPN10, which is associated with type 2 diabetes risk in Mexican Americans
  • GLUT2, which helps move glucose into the pancreas
  • GCGR, a glucagon hormone involved in glucose regulation

Your chances of developing type 2 diabetes depend on many factors. Some of these factors like your family history can’t be changed, but lifestyle factors like diet and exercise can be modified to decrease your chances of developing type 2 diabetes.

You’re at an increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes if you:

Tests are available for some of the gene mutations associated with type 2 diabetes. The increased risk for any given mutation is small, however.

Other factors are far more accurate predictors of whether you’ll develop type 2 diabetes, including:

Research shows that type 2 diabetes occurs more frequently in Hispanic, African American, and Asian American people compared with other ethnic groups. This may be due to health inequities that are prevalent in marginalized communities.

The interactions between genetics and the environment make it difficult to identify a definite cause of type 2 diabetes. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t reduce your risk through modifying your habits.

The Diabetes Intervention Accentuating Diet and Enhancing Metabolism study (DIADEM,) a large, 2020 randomized clinical trial of people with type 2 diabetes, suggests that weight loss and increased physical activity can prevent or reverse early type 2 diabetes.

Blood glucose levels returned to normal levels in some cases and most participants experienced diabetes remission. Other reviews of multiple studies have reported similar results.

Here are some things you can start doing today to reduce your risk for type 2 diabetes:

Start an exercise program

Slowly add physical activity into your daily routine if you can. For example, take the stairs instead of the elevator or park further away from building entrances. You can also try going for a walk during lunch.

Once you’re ready, you can start adding light weight training and other cardiovascular activities to your routine. Aim for 30 minutes of exercise each day.

Talk with your doctor before starting an exercise routine. They can help you create a plan that complements your needs and abilities so you can safely exercise and take advantage of its health benefits.

Create a balanced meal plan

Cooking your own meals is the easiest way to make nutrient-dense choices.

Come up with a weekly meal plan that includes dishes for every meal. Stock up on all of the groceries you’ll need and do some of the prep work ahead of time.

You can ease yourself into it, too. Start by planning your lunches for the week. Once you’re comfortable with that, you can plan out additional meals.

Choose nutrient-dense snacks

Stock up on snack options so you can keep your body fueled and energy levels high. Here are some balanced, easy-to-eat snacks you may want to try:

Knowing about risk factors for type 2 diabetes can help you make changes to prevent developing the condition.

Tell your doctor about your family history with type 2 diabetes. They can decide if genetic testing is right for you. They can also help you reduce your risk through lifestyle changes.

Your doctor may also want to regularly check your glucose levels. Testing can help them with early detection of blood sugar abnormalities or identification of type 2 diabetes warning signs.

Early diagnosis and treatment can have a positive impact on your outlook.

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